Jarrett Culver: Role

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Strengths

  • Three-level scorer with diverse shot profile

  • Willing passer, consistently tries to make the right play

  • Versatile wing defender that will fit into a solid team defense

  • Intelligent player, with strong recognition & reaction ability for age

Weaknesses

  • Not an explosive athlete

  • Shooting form has two significant problems

  • Miscast as a primary scorer & initiator

  • No single standout skill to consistently rely on in the NBA

Offensive role at Texas Tech

Despite playing as a forward on defense, Culver is both the primary scorer and playmaker for the Red Raiders. He carries a 30 percent usage rate and has run roughly one-third of the team’s pick-and-rolls, an action that directly accounts for about 30 percent of Texas Tech’s half court offense. His combination of ball-handling, passing, strong frame and body control enable him to create shots at all three levels. He has finished 64 percent of his shots at the rim in the half court, shots which are almost exclusively unassisted. While this role has enabled him to display a diverse skill set, it has not led to efficient team offense. Texas Tech ranks outside the top 100 in the KenPom offensive rankings, and has one of the worst offenses within Big Ten conference play. Part of this is because Culver has few efficient outlets he can pass to out of primary actions. However, part of the struggles can be attributed to Culver himself. His passing accuracy is subpar, and he is not explosive enough to consistently force opposing defenses to collapse.

Offensive role projection -

Off-ball threat, facilitator

Culver will fit better into a secondary offensive role, playing alongside a dynamic lead ball-handler. He does an excellent job attacking closeouts and creating for teammates against an off-balance defense. His shooting is a question mark. On the one hand, many aspects of his shooting form are pristine, resulting in elite side-to-side accuracy (70 percent of the shots we tracked were on target). On the other hand, there are two significant issues, acute elbow angle and wrist flex, that could contribute to long term problems with distance control (read more about his shooting form). That said, he has flashed an impressive ability to hit shots off movement, and his college role has made clear that he can hit shots off the dribble at a reasonable rate. His skill set enables him to be used in a variety of ways, which should allow him to fit seamlessly into most offensive schemes. Likewise, he can fill many roles in transition, from grab-and-go ball-handler to filling lanes on the wing, spacing the floor or diving to the rim as lob threat.

Defensive role at Texas Tech

Culver plays as a forward in a suffocating Texas Tech defense that leads the nation in defensive efficiency presently. Their defense relies on funneling ball-handlers towards shot-blockers (an d charge-takers), crisp help rotations, and relentlessly closing out to shooters. Culver executes these team concepts in an excellent manner. His closeouts are disruptive, his rotations decisive and well-timed, and his on-ball defense angles opponents effectively. He has proven capable of switching both up and down positions, though he tends to fare better against forwards and bigs than quicker guards. He generates a solid number of impact plays, though often they do not show up in the box score.

Defensive role projection -

Point-of-attack, switchable

Culver’s physical tools are probably best suited to guarding 3s at the next level, but his combination of length, intelligence, and motor will allow him to hold his own against a wide range of opponents. He is capable of switching up or down a position, and is willing to battle against a stronger big or chase after a quicker guard when the situation requires him to switch onto those players.

Whatever assignment he takes on, he will maintain awareness of both his man and the ball handler consistently. His off-ball positioning is very good, and he helps decisively rather than merely drifting toward the action. He does a good job recovering to his man after helping, though he may need to adjust the way he closes out to shooters. The speed and spacing of the NBA game runs counter to the defensive style of Texas Tech. Adjusting to having more space and less help behind him may be a struggle initially, as his lateral quickness is just average. However, he is a smart defender that uses his strength and length well. He also does a good job of closing out possessions on the defensive boards.

Why Culver will earn minutes as a rookie

Culver’s versatility on both ends of the court will make him a natural fit in the rotation right away. On offense his multifaceted game allows him to take what the defense gives him. He is capable of playing both on and off the ball, depending on what is needed in a given lineup. His intelligent relocation off the ball will maintain team spacing and provide passing angles for the ball-handler. He will attack closeouts effectively, and be a willing passer when driving the lane. On the defensive end he should make an immediate impact as a fundamentally sound, switchable wing with good help defense instincts.

Why Culver’s minutes may be limited as a rookie

The most likely reason for Culver’s minutes to be limited is if his shooting struggles continue. While a role with more catch-and-shoot attempts in theory should be ‘easier,’ sometimes players used to have the ball in their hands have trouble transitioning to a role where they are not dribbling into shots. Shot distribution is another concern. Presently 36 percent of his shots are from mid-range, a rate that is rather high and could depress his overall efficiency. Finally, if a team were to thrust him into an on-ball role he likely would struggle and play fewer minutes.